Something To Not Talk About... - Banbury McBurg
27th of December 1999
Blair looked up from his computer. Jim had been in the forensic lab for more than an hour now, and Simon was fuming. He emerged from his office for the third time in a row and barked, “Ellison”, only to be told by Blair that Jim was still out. It was no good, and Blair fought the urge to phone his partner and ask him to hurry up.
Joel tapped on the monitor to draw his attention and proffered a plate with two big pieces of banana cake.
“Hey, Blair, cheer up! Try this, my wife made it yesterday and I thought you’d appreciate some home cooking.” He laughed softly, clearly knowing about Blair’s hidden craving for sweets, despite his proclamations about the benefits of health food. “Let yourself loosen up a little.” Blair laughed with him and thankfully accepted the plate.
“Jim will be thrilled.” Blair darted one more worried glance towards the bullpen’s door and then Simon’s office.
“Don’t worry. Simon’s not really mad at Jim, he's just been jumpy since last week’s meeting with the Chief.” Joel shook his head and lowered his voice. “Seems the Chief wanted Jim for some work, and Simon’s none too happy about it.”
“What job?” Now Blair was officially worried. He didn’t like it when the powers that be called for Jim’s help. Usually that meant that they wanted just his partner, as Blair, even as a licensed detective, was still a bit too weird for them. Blair didn’t like it.
Joel shrugged, and at the same moment, Simon barked one more “Ellison” from his office. Blair shivered with strange anticipation. He began to breathe deeply in and out trying to calm his sudden uneasiness and inhaled the rich banana aroma of the cake.
It hit him like a brick and he felt sand on his teeth; hot wind, blowing away all thoughts from his head, and the overwhelming, suffocating sweet smell of bananas – baked bananas, fried bananas, overripe bananas… He felt an unexpected nausea as the smell brought back so many memories. And then it was tiredness. He was tired from the first day in the retreat, a couple of days away from the nearest border kibbutz.
Tired of traveling, of being out somewhere… nowhere, tired of Naomi’s whims. He wasn’t very happy with his decision to spend his summer holidays with Naomi. As much as he liked to be in the Middle East with all its colors, smells, luster – its fairytale quality – now he was tired of it all. And he was afraid. There were too many strange people even for his liking – smoking, speaking to themselves, talking about spirits – for him to feel at ease. In the end, he wasn’t all that surprised to see people in camouflage and turbans surround them one sultry morning.
That week was one of the longest in his life. He remembered it as a time of constant hiding. Naomi began to wear her darkest and ugliest dresses as did many other women, but the insurgents took them regardless of their appearance. Many children of his age, boys as well as girls, were put out of sight, but almost all of them eventually were caught.
Blair made an asylum for himself on the edge of the peach gardens in thorny shrubs between piles of compost and litter. He felt filthy, stinky, and lost. He ate some fruits, choking on the banana smell from the scraps, and some leftover bars of chocolate, hating for once the lingering aftermath of sickly sweet taste. The water he finished in a couple of days, and in the night he sneaked to the nearest spring to fill his bottle.
It was there and then that Blair lifted his head, frightened by the strange shift in the air, and met the bluest eyes in the world across the bushes. He opened his mouth not knowing either to shriek with fright or to warn the stranger of the armed men in the camp and saw the new arrival shake his head asking for silence. He felt overwhelmingly safe all of a sudden and then discovered that he'd begun to cry.
“Shshsh. It’s okay, Chief. Don’t cry, I’ve got you. I’m here now and you’ll be okay. Shshsh. I’ve got you and we’ll be okay…”
Behind their backs, all hell broke loose, and for several hours there was nothing besides shooting, shouting, and the crushing shock of being attacked. Soon after it ended, Blair found himself fed by the American soldiers who now controlled the camp, given water, and was sleepily safe except the strange feeling of missing something… someone. He woke in the middle of the night, lying on a mattress on the floor in a barracks, with the sensation of somebody behind him. It wasn’t a frightening sensation -- on the contrary, he found it soothing and reassuring. Then a heavy, strong hand with long, elegant fingers shifted on his ribs and a sleepy voice mumbled something like, “Go to sleep, Chief. S’okay.”
He woke the next morning to a low murmur of voices outside the barracks. Someone instructed someone else what to take with them. After a moment of disorientation, he managed to recall yesterday’s events and had to fight nausea and fright.
“Hey, Chief, I got you breakfast.” Blair jumped and turned to face his savior. “I’m Jim.”
Blair stared at him wordlessly. It was strange to hear the man in the military equipment call himself just by his first name. It might have something to do with Blair looking younger than his fourteen years, but at the same time it was as close to an offer of friendship as he could imagine from the older man.
“I know. Your mom is worried about you; I just wanted to make sure you’re okay. Are you?” Jim handed him a plate with banana toast and a cup of water and smiled knowingly at his involuntary shudder at the sight of bananas. “We have a long journey ahead. It’s hot now, we’ll have to move right after the sunset and move quickly.” Somebody called 'Lieutenant' from the outside and Jim headed to the door, shrugging crookedly as he left. “Don’t know what possessed you guys to camp in that place.”
It turned out that one of the strange people here was the son of a US senator and they’d sent special troops to rescue him. Effective at the beginning, the plan involved three days of foot march through the desert. Blair hung on to Jim all the way. He just didn’t feel safe more than five meters from him and was determined to do anything to consolidate his place beside the man.
So, Blair was silent or eloquent as the situation required. More than once he became the go-between for the army guys and civilians. And he clutched Jim’s hand every time, grounding himself, constantly renewing the feel of safety, drawing strength from the familiar warmth and power, as a hand appeared on his shoulder as he had since the first time he felt it there. There was always Jim’s hand. Always. When he was frightened, tired, sad - there was Jim’s hand, as when he was glad, playful, content.
“Let’s go and see what Simon has to say to us, partner.” As always.
Simon put down the papers and glanced up at his detectives. Jim was reading a file, putting marks on the margins from time to time. Blair was sorting photos and transcripts of the interrogations according to the data they contained. It was so ordinary, like life was as it should be; like the world around them was the way it should be; like all their troubles were in the…
He shuddered and yanked his hand away the drawer. He'd put the envelope there four days ago, and as much as he wanted to throw it away, to burn this thing to ashes and just forget, he knew he had to do something with it and the first move was to give it to his friends to read.
Simon didn’t have to make an effort to remember that highly disturbing talk with the Chief. He could’ve soft-pedaled the issue if not for the photo that accompanied the anonymous letter. The photo was almost innocent, even if it pictured two men kissing passionately. If only they hadn’t been co-workers, moreover, senior and junior detectives working together.
Simon caught Jim frowning at him, as if the other man felt his distress, and pulled himself up – of course he felt it. He smiled a small, hopefully reassuring, smile and shrugged. Jim returned to his work.
Simon hoped they could make progress on this case or even close the file before he’d be forced to set events in motion. He knew that the only possible outcome of the affair would be their resignations. It was highly unlikely they'd agreed to be reassigned to different partners. It wasn’t a possibility given their relationships as Sentinel and Guide, and it had become less of a solution in the light of the new discovery.
Simon was sure that every word of that damn letter was true. He knew he’d seen the signs of it for a long time now; it was just convenient not to think of it. As a friend it’d disturb him, though he wasn’t a bigot. As a boss… Well, name all the reasons…
Though, he could admit it – he’d thought about it. Oh, not about what they did together, please, just that Blair looked good; and together they seemed sometimes like an old married couple; they even joked about it, the whole Major Crime gang.
And there was that feeling that he was missing something looking at them, missing since the first time he saw them together all those years ago. He began to understand it now – they were restraining themselves around other people. He could remember glimpses of more he’d seen several times, but that was all.
So he wasn’t sure why it troubled him so much when he actually had the evidence in his hands. It had nothing to do with their behavior, but what he was going to have to do in response to it. It felt as if he was trying to find the right words to say 'goodbye' to his friends. As if there wasn’t a way out of it. The final closure.
And he wanted their moments together to last a little longer.
28th of December 1999
Jim shifted in his chair, trying to find the most comfortable position. His earlier encounter with a dustbin, during a chase after a perp, had brought only new pain for his 'poor, dear’ knee as Blair called it, and nothing more. Even the perp was the wrong one, and not their intended target, though they'd prevented a purse-snatching.
He glanced back at Blair, who was sitting at the kitchen table with papers scattered around haphazardly. He liked, no, loved, to watch Blair writing, reading… studying something intently, with that irresistible lower lip worried between white teeth and a pen swirling between his fingers in fascinatingly slow motion.
He always wondered whether Blair had looked like this when he’d written that first letter to him. He’d never told Blair that his first letter – a yellowish piece of paper dotted with half-erased, virtually illegible scrawls only he could make out – was still hidden in his wallet with an almost unrecognizable snapshot taken on the last day of their encounter.
“May I… uhm…” Blair suddenly became the average, shy fourteen-year-old geek everybody saw in him.
Blair inhaled deeply and looked right in Jim’s eyes. “May I write you sometimes? It’s just… you know, you were so … nice to me and you… listened.” He visibly braced himself for the rejection and Jim read his thoughts -- just how could he be interesting to this silent soldier, so different from the men he'd met before -- but Jim smiled.
He liked this boy. He could understand what Blair thought of him, seeing the type of men he was with. For him Blair was also an adventure. He wasn’t into kids and all that family stuff, but this boy was different. For the last five days he'd come as close to friend as Jim, who knew he was a very closed-off person, could call one. He was thoughtful, brave, smart. In some ways he was even more mature than Jim with his twenty-one years of living.
“Sure. I don’t get mail all that often; it’d be… interesting.”
Jim remembered the day he received that first letter in detail. Not because it was intense, but because it had been boring as hell. He received the letter just after breakfast and didn’t want to read it hastily, so he had to wait until after dinner to have some free time and to find a quiet place to read without interruption.
It was small – just a page from a notebook covered on both sides with scribbles. But it was the first personal letter he’d had in years. Actually it was the first personal letter he'd ever had – his mother had never written to him; and as for Steve and his father…
He sent Blair postcards with exotic landscapes, strange buildings, and various native images from everywhere and received pages and pages of hastily scribbled stories and odd thoughts. He still remembered their scent and texture. And the sense of wonder he felt every time, seeing a new envelope in his hands.
“What are you searching for?”
“Uhm…” Blair lifted his head and looked at him with unfocused eyes. “Oh! I just thought of something, and brought some old cases to look through. You know… hmm, actually, I’m not sure what I’m looking for, just… you know… feeling.” He looked expectantly at his partner and then slapped himself on the forehead. “Sorry, love, I totally forgot about dinner. Let me…” He began to collect his papers into an untidy pile. “Let me just warm the leftover ragout and I’ll toss the salad. We need to go to the market by the way; we're short on vegetables and I want to make fish pie for the New Year. Do you…?”
“Breathe, sunshine. Just make a list and we’ll be fine.”
Simon sat in his car across the street from the loft. He wasn’t sure if Jim was able to hear him or not. He just sat there thinking. He'd wanted to ask both his friends to dinner, but then Rafe told him about Jim’s knee and he didn’t want to disturb them.
He also wanted to tell somebody about the anonymous letter but it would raise so many questions and discussions; questions he wasn’t sure he was able to withstand now. The most important one was whether Jim and Blair wanted anybody to know about them or not.
Finally, he turned the key in the ignition and slowly drove away. He'd made a decision – he’d see what they had on the case tomorrow, and then he’d talk to them. Definitely.
De… okay, he’d think it through tomorrow morning.
“Is Simon still downstairs?”
“Maybe I should go and invite him in?”
“Look, sunshine, you told me yourself that Joel thinks Simon is up to something. Just let him work it out by himself. It’ll be better and healthier for us, by the way.”
“If you say so.”
29th of December 1999
Blair felt uneasiness in the air. It had painted the last couple of days misty, and made the hair all over his body stand up and shiver. It felt so much like those days when his dissertation had blown up that he couldn’t help feeling some kind of dread.
He watched Jim suspiciously, the way he read papers, or talked to Simon. He didn’t want to remember the way his lover could be distant and unresponsive to his probing questions, but those pictures leaped into his mind nevertheless. Blair shook his head ruefully and turned his attention to Simon.
There was something strange with their captain. It was as if Simon was desperately trying to act as if nothing had happened when the damage had already been done. Blair wondered if it was something he could’ve said or done. But no. Simon was the one with quick retorts; he wouldn’t hold a grudge for long.
Unfortunately, Jim had vetoed his suggestion to talk to Simon and all Blair could do was just sit here and listen to their carefully neutral voices. He began to remember all the emotionally dreadful situations in his life, trying to identify the quality of his uneasiness.
There were one too many cases, apparently, because after going from the diss situation to Alex Barnes to Starkville undercover to the night on the poachers boat to the encounter with Incacha to the lift and rig affairs to the … to the … he couldn’t remember a year since he began to work with Jim when there weren’t several frightful situations. But they weren’t as dreadful, he thought, because there was Jim with him. Even with Alex, he’d hoped they could talk their way out somehow.
The real fear for him would come if somebody tried to separate them. Blair realized, looking at Jim, that since his fourteenth year he’d rarely thought of himself as truly alone, except for the frightening moment when --
he fingered the phone cord waiting for the answer. He had to hear Jim’s voice like this very minute, just had to. It was irrational. Some bodiless voice assured him once more, “Captain’s on his way” and Blair slid down the wall right onto the pile of library books. He felt lightheaded.
He watched another student’s feet go by the phone booth, still waiting for the answer. This time wasn’t the first time he’d felt concerned about Jim. In his line of work, anyone would be frightened for him, a bit at least. This time the dread was suddenly too real – he kept waking in the night, again and again, chase by strange shadows on the sides of his dreams; he kept hearing long, low howls…
“Hey, Chief! What’s up, buddy?” Blair exhaled slowly trying to catch his breath. “Blair?” Jim sounded concerned but clearly distracted at the same time. “Blair? Su…?” He never, as in never, called him ‘sunshine’ with other people around, so he must be really preoccupied by something, thought Blair, even more worried than before. Bad timing, buddy.
“Huh, Jim…” Blair was at a loss for a second but Jim must’ve heard something in his voice, and he began to soothe him immediately.
“Hey, kid, don’t worry. Really! We’ll be shipped out a tad earlier and I don’t know when I’ll be back…”
Blair listened to the sound of his friend’s voice and felt his gut tightened in apprehension. “But, Jim! You promised!” It sounded too childish even for his own ears, but he’d really looked forward to this long weekend. He missed Jim so much. His quiet presence, the heaviness of his hand on Blair’s shoulder, warm breath on his back when he woke up in the middle of the night. Their get-togethers had been so few throughout the years that he treasured each of them.
He remembered every moment by heart, from those meetings when they were just buddies, to the last ones, that belonged only to them, as they couldn’t tell even Naomi of their … love. Blair felt too shy to say such things and Jim was too tight-lipped to express his feelings; they never called each other “lover” - only “dear”, “my”; even “sunshine” was reserved for the bedroom and whispers.
At eighteen, Blair was more experienced in relationships than many of his classmates. He never missed having casual affairs, but listened to others saying “my lover” with a strange twist in his guts. He craved saying it aloud. He almost slipped now. “Jim, l-l… listen…”
“Blair!” And that did it. If it was “Blair” then all discussion was over. Blair heard real regret in his lover’s voice, but Jim was an officer, after all. As much as Blair despised it, it was his way and he loved Jim too much to deny him his path.
“I’ll be waiting.” He tried to lever himself up off the floor, but his feet kept slipping. All things around these days became slippery – the ground dropped away from his feet, tableware slipped out of his hands, the world itself escaped him, left him in the suburbs.
He replaced the handset and reluctantly went on with his schedule.
He kept waiting for the call from Jim, then for the letter, even for the quick note, for word through somebody. He found himself dialing the same number when there was silence on his birthday. No way would Jim forget about it. He would’ve found a way to send Blair his special “Happy Birthday”.
“Hmm.” The disembodied voice said something off to the side and rustled through some papers. “Sorry, Mr. Sandburg, there’s nothing for you from Captain Ellison. You know he’s listed missing in action, don’t you?” There were hushed voices on the other side and somebody else asked something, but Blair blindly hung up and slid down the wall.
Well before he’d even known that Jim was heading to Peru, some instinct had activated the early warning system in his head. This phone call was the last straw – the next thing Blair had expected to hear was that Jim was dead. And “gone missing” wasn’t much better.
Blair felt almost dead inside, let himself believe for the first time that he’d actually lost Jim. Almost gave up, feeling himself slip-sliding away…
“…sunshine”. Jim’s voice echoed in his ear, and Blair felt fingers massaging down his neck. “Breathe, Chief. In, out, in, out…” Blair sensed Jim’s worried glance on him even with closed eyes. “There, Chief, there. You scared me, you know.”
They sat silently for several minutes: Blair trying to catch his breath and Jim stroking his back. They let themselves just be for some time, not thinking, even not feeling – just existing. After so many years together, and despite all the arguments and misunderstandings they were tuned to each other perfectly. Breathing in union was a natural way to calm each other, to re-connect with the surrounding world.
“S’okay, kid.” Blair grinned involuntarily, it was really funny how Jim instinctively reduced him to a fourteen-year-old again in uncomfortable situations, in order to feel himself old and wise.
“Kid, my ass!”
Somebody from behind them cleared his throat.
“Sorry, Simon.” Blair smiled a bit sheepishly at the older man. “Got drowsy with all your whispers.” Simon looked at him with a blank expression and Blair shuddered. There was something indeed going on in their captain’s head and he himself wasn’t the least curious about it for once. That was odd.
30th of December 1999
Jim cast his eyes over the report one more time and nodded to himself. They’d finally put all the pieces together due to Blair’s masterful search through the old, unsolved cases and were ready to close not only this case, but three older ones. He stretched thinking they might talk Simon into giving them a few days leave and they could go to the cabin for the New Year. It would be nice.
The whole year after Blair’s graduation from the academy had been far too busy for his liking. Even their vacations had been cut short because of one reason or another, and Jim desperately wanted to spend some time out of the station, out of the city, generally away from it all.
“If you are dreaming about Wonderburger for lunch, you could easily re-dream your dream.” Jim chuckled.
“You hurt me here, Chief! I was dreaming about a perfect veggie burger.” He theatrically shuddered and took the file from the table. “I was thinking of asking Simon for a few days leave so that we could check out the cabin.” He headed to the captain’s office, smiling at the sharp intake of breath behind his back.
Simon listened to Jim without hearing the actual words. He contemplated whether to give the letter to Jim now, or… no, it would be too cruel to give it to him after his vacation. He reached into the bottom drawer, not giving himself time to reconsider, and pulled the envelope out.
“Sorry, Jim. I need your opinion on it.” Simon got up and went to the window deliberately turning his back to his friend. He knew he’d see the carefully shielded expression on Jim’s face were he to choose to look at him. The problem was that he didn’t want to remember Jim that way.
The silence behind him was strangely light, even amused.
“You want our resignation right now or after the New Year?”
Simon took a deep breath. “I…” He felt a warm hand on his shoulder. “I…”
“Honestly, I don’t and I won’t deny the information. That’s not how I wanted to tell you, though I always thought you suspected that much. Haven’t you? I didn’t want to tell you directly, so as not to put you in exactly this position. Hoped you’d work it out and wouldn’t be upset with us.”
This was one of the rare times when Simon was able to see Jim’s true feelings. And it was fascinating. He couldn’t help but stare.
Simon shook his head like a dog coming out from the rain. “Yes.”
“I… had that thought for… some time now. I didn’t want to… to…”
“To know; I understand, Simon.” Jim squeezed his shoulder once again and turned towards the door.
Simon felt strangely disappointed all of a sudden. “You don’t want to fight it? To… to find the anonym? To, I don’t know, to do something?”
Jim stopped but didn’t turn, listening to him. “Jim?”
Jim shook his head, sighed and looked at Simon at last. “You see, Simon, the problem is – it’s really doesn’t matter. Oh yes, I can easily find the author of that crap.” He spat the last words in perfect Jim-manner and shook his head again. “But it’s really not worth the trouble. We’ll be reassigned nevertheless and I… I’m just tired of it all.”
“We are tired of it all.” Blair added calmly and closed the door behind him. “Really, Simon. You don’t need our words. You may feel sorry for us now, even for yourself, but it’s really for good.”
They stood shoulder to shoulder watching him with a bit stubborn expressions on their faces and Simon perfectly knew when he was outvoted.
He returned to his seat, poured three cups of coffee, put two pieces of paper on the edge of the table and hesitantly took out the cigar. “Gentlemen.” He gestured to the coffee and papers.
“We see. Now.”
Simon watched them as Jim and Blair wrote their resignations sipping their last cups of coffee in his office. He felt maudlin, that was not like him but understandable, and didn’t want to think of practical things right now.
“I’ll think of something to tell the others, but I’m afraid at least Joel needed to know the truth.” Simon solemnly watched his friends, but they just nodded. “I hope you’ll be in touch.” Blair glanced from the paper and smiled. “Right. I really want to know that you are okay.”
“We’ll be in touch and don’t worry; we have some aces in store. Just… Don’t worry, Simon.” Jim stretched out his hand and Simon stood and swept him in embrace. They had no more to add. Jim nodded and gave place to Blair.
Blair looked through his drawers one last time checking for the important things like his comb or the dust blower for the keyboard. Jim suddenly bent and kissed Blair lightly on the tip of his nose.
“Let’s get going, Chief.” Jim tugged his partner towards the stairs, needing to leave the police station as quickly as possible.
“You know, man, it’s the first time you’ve kissed me in public.”
There were quite few people in the bullpen that afternoon. Nobody noticed their packing and quiet banter. Rafe and H exchanged glances over the telltale ‘old-married-couple’ behavior, but said nothing, just nodded when Jim and Blair left.
“No! Don’t you remember; I kissed you once at the University.”
“Close, but no cigar, Jim my man, I'm afraid. That was behind the closed doors. Nobody could see you then.”
“Ha-ha! Somebody could’ve walked up on us, the door wasn’t locked.”
“That’s just a figure of speech, Jim, you could’ve sensed said somebody from the floor above. You’re just chickening on me now. You know…”
The voices were cut off by the sound of the elevator and it was the last time the Major Crime band heard from their best detectives for several years.
31st of December 1999
Jim nearly slipped on the icy pavement and cursed. He was carrying two large suitcases and he was sure he’d have fallen if not for the hand that took one of the bags from him.
“Damn it, Blair, I wanted this evening to be the perfect beginning, and now you are dragging us somewhere…” He wrinkled his nose, sweeping the view of a not-so-good district close to the harbor. “What are we doing here anyway?”
He didn’t have to hear the answer as they turned the corner and his gaze fell upon a three-story house – the “Days Inn” motel he’d used to stay in when he’d been coming here on leave during his army days. It was a quite decent if simple place not far from Rainier and Blair’s dorm. He hadn’t been here for more than ten years.
Jim smiled. “I see, sunshine, I see. I have to approve your choice.”
Blair chuckled in response and gently pushed him forward.
Jim was lucky enough to be able to check them into a very nice remodeled suite with the ocean view. He swept their rooms with Sentinel sight and hearing first thing. Then he calmed, strolled through them one more time, enjoying freedom, seemed lighthearted for the first time in his life. He opened the blinds and drew Blair closer, watching the bayside full of light and holiday sounds.
“So, darling… You seem in charge for the surprises tonight. So right now I want my expected surprise of champagne, strawberries, chocolate and you. Preferably naked.”
Blair was still laughing when the bathroom door clicked shut behind him.
Jim put on the white terry hotel bathrobe and rummaged through his duffel bag in search of Blair’s present one more time. He was sure he’d put it there. They’d given each other traditional Christmas presents before all the events of the last four days, but now he felt the need to give his lover one more special present. Nothing much, just a small amber pendant in the shape of a banana as a reminder of the place they’d met the first time and as a mark of the “endings and beginnings they’d experienced”. He found it in the pocket of his jacket at last and put it away safely in the pocket of his robe.
Jim drowsed on the couch until he heard light slaps of bare feet. He smelled herbal shampoo and the musky aroma of the soap intertwined with the scent of wet flesh; heard the rustling sound of a towel drying Blair’s hair, the echo of droplets sliding along the unclothed skin; felt the hot wave of arousal that poured from Blair.
With his inner sight he saw his lover the way he’d seen him that first time, almost fifteen years ago in this very motel, in a room not far away from this one. Not that Blair, confident of their love, beautiful in his masculinity, powerful in his knowledge of them and of the world but shy and a little frightened of his own courage, striking in his innocence and inexperience, waiting for Jim and the world to reject or embrace him.
Jim lay on the bed in the darkened room, flipping through the channels and waiting for Blair to free up the bathroom. They’d just returned from the cinema Blair had lured him into watching “Back to the Future” and seeing as it was late and tomorrow Jim had to return to his regiment, which left Blair in a dismal mood, Jim had suggested Blair spent the night in Jim’s room on the couch. There was an odd gleam in Blair’s eyes when he enthusiastically nodded his agreement but Jim was too used to this youth eagerness to really notice it.
He must’ve been drowsing, because the next thing he was aware of was the sound of someone’s heavy breathing nearby. He opened his eyes and stared up into Blair’s wide and uncertain ones. The boy was naked apart from towel around his hips and was so intoxicatingly attractive with his slender, still growing form, a cloud of dark golden-brownish hair leading down from rosy nipples to the stomach under the cloth, big hands nervously patting the material. Jim suddenly saw neither boy nor man, but someone in between, someone changing before his eyes.
“What do you think you are doing?” He regretted his words immediately, seeing Blair’s face fall as he stepped backward. Jim grabbed Blair’s hand before Blair fled to the bathroom again and made him sit down on the bed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.” He was no good in these kind of situations and wondered what to say or do next. And he was painfully aware of his own almost nudity and the growing erection covered only by his boxers.
They were silent for a while. Blair sat stiffly on the edge of the bed shrinking into himself with every passing minute. Jim couldn’t stand it. He wasn’t a stranger to the world of men’s love though he wasn’t sure his action in either field was something one could actually call ‘love’. He’d felt his inner being responding to Blair’s almost from their first meeting, but he never thought of it as a physical attraction as well. Until tonight. Jim struggled with himself to put his libido to sleep, never letting go of Blair’s cold and damp hand.
“I… I…” Blair whispered into the chilly air of the room at last.
“Sh-h-h.” Jim slid under the quilt and gently tugged Blair to lie down beside him. The towel Blair wore was still a bit wet and uncomfortable but he didn’t pull it off giving Blair the feeling he was in charge of the situation. Blair shifted slightly, pressing his back to Jim’s chest and putting his head closer to Jim’s shoulder. It was disturbingly cozy.
“You don’t like it?” Blair evidently felt Jim’s tension and began to shift farther off.
“Oh no. Not that. Actually I… like it too much, you might say.” Jim laughed dryly. It was better to talk lying in the dark back to chest, not seeing each others’ faces.
“Just don’t start with that ‘I’m too young to know what I want for sure’ crap.” Blair didn’t sound bitter or angry; he said it so matter-of-factly as if he was sure of his desire.
“Okay.” Jim wasn’t in the mood for tiresome ‘adult’ lectures that never worked on Blair in the first place. He wasn’t his parent or mentor. He was just a friend, older, but not wiser or cleverer in the common sense. He wanted to just be a friend regardless of what’ve been in the future.
“Shh, I like you, too. We’ll figure it out somehow. Maybe not tonight, but eventually. It’d be easier to talk through letters, don’t you think?” Jim felt Blair relax beside him and let his arm circle his friend’s waist clasping their hands together. Blair tucked their joined hands under his chest.
“Uh-huh. I’m good at writing.” Jim began to drift toward sleep when Blair suddenly chuckled. “Did you like the film? I liked it! Just I’d prefer to actually go to the future, you know, to see us in ten or like fifteen years. What do you think? It’d be interesting?”
“Fascinating! Sleep.” Jim yawned and shifted deeper under the covers. He felt tension slipping from Blair, the boy wriggled, trying to make himself comfortable, and mumbled sleepily, “You don’t mind?” Jim yawned in answer and suddenly shuddered, feeling cold fingers ghosting over his ribs.
“You know how I love to wake you up like this!” Blair giggled down at him and lowered his head to kiss Jim’s nose. “Would you like some champagne? With strawberries, maybe?”
Jim stretched and let the folds of the bathrobe fall apart, teasing his lover. “Hmm. Let me see… From your lips?”
“Feeling romantic tonight?” Blair snorted and passed him the flute filled with bubbling golden liquid. Jim shrugged.
“Nope. Maybe you are witnessing the birth of a new man tonight.”
Blair glanced at him intently and smiled, shaking his head.
“Don’t change much, love, I like the old you better.”
The sky outside their window erupted with fireworks. They watched the display for some time, finishing their champagne, then Blair closed the blinds and sat beside Jim on the couch.
“Happy New Year, sunshine!” Jim took the pendant from his pocket and put over his dear’s head. He didn’t need to speak of endings and beginnings out loud. Not now at least. There would be time tomorrow to think of the future. Tonight was for now, for them, for being.
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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Jane Davitt for the beta and to Patt for the artwork.